It was a treat to meander along the empty paths towards the soothing music of the Sunset Concert on Sunday, swinging my picnic blanket in my right hand. My son was carrying the heavier cooler box so my load was light in more ways than one. Our usual scenario would have been to stand in a long queue until they opened the gates at 4pm or so and then to battle the throng of other picnic and music lovers for the best patch of grass to view the concert.
This time we arrived in perfect time (it had just started) and wandered in casually with still plenty of space on the packed lawn to enjoy the soothing sounds of Alice Phoebe Lou singing “Something Holy”. My heart beat slowed almost instantly.
Alice was apparently discovered on the streets of Berlin, and it was her first concert at Kirstenbosch. She recalled how as a young girl she had spent many Sunday evenings listening to other performers there and how weird it was for her to now be on ‘the other side’.
She was super. Soft, soothing and mellow and it didn’t take us long to unpack our chilled wine, once we had settled ourselves on our picnic blankets. She soon added a few more band members to the stage, not wanting to sing all alone she said, and the drummer, guitarist, sax player and vocalists complimented her perfectly.
There were a delightful few bars of bass guitar as the intro to her next number, “Galaxies” which she explained was about our human insignificance, and how powerful it in fact was. I stood to survey the stage far below from where we sat, seen best in between the branches of the trees ahead of me. All I could make out were figures of people, her bottle green skirt swaying with her beautiful music, the guitar slung around her neck. She added a few more titles, ‘Paper Castles’ and ‘She’ and apologized for not having brought any ‘merch’ (merchandise) to sell to the concert goers, hoping only that we enjoyed it and promising to be back to Kirstenbosch soon.
I hoped so too.
By now, the breeze had picked up a little and people starting putting on cardigans and snuggling in closer to each other. It was time for some food and I assembled our wraps, adding some mayo and pesto to the cut strips of chicken, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and grated cheese. No utensils required!
And then it was Beatenberg’s turn which was heralded by much applause and a little dancing from people who continued to pass up and down the footpath in front of us, dressed in all sorts of interesting gear: a costume top, bold patterned pants, a jersey around a waist with a turban, or a flimsy white cotton dress. All around us were happy people: people mellowed by the music and buoyed by the beautiful venue surrounded by friends, family, toddlers and babies.
I looked up at the mountain to the left and wondered how lucky we all were to be sitting right beneath it. You would be easily forgiven if, for those few precious moments, you forgot about the critically serious water situation in our beautiful city of Cape Town, the seemingly unending spells of crime on our beaches and mountains, and the petty politics that seems to override it all.
On the thick green grass of Kirstenbosch amongst a floral kingdom you are allowed to lie in little piece of paradise, soothed by the sounds of a great band.
‘Sometimes it feels like heaven, and sometimes it feels like hell’ (title ‘Raphael’) was the first tune of Beatenberg, (from their 2014 album The Hanging Gardens of Beatenberg) and the words could not have been more appropriate for what I was feeling.
There was little chatter in between songs (not necessary in a concert such as this) and instead they just played their fresh, original sounds: ‘Beauty like a Tightened Bow’, ‘Scorpion Fish’ and a few others from a nostalgic trio, including a cover by the Beach Boys.
Sunlight was still visible at the top of the mountain when their unique sounds (though someone said they sound most like Paul Simon) came all too soon to an end, with ‘Chelsea Blakemore’.
We packed our bags, folded the blankets and walked back up to the top gate of Kirstenbosch Gardens, feeling a whole heap more soulful and satisfied than when we had arrived.
Amazing what a short interlude of outdoors, music and community on a Sunday evening can do!
Kirstenbosch Sunday Sunset Concerts continue until 1 April 2018.
DON’T MISS THEM IF YOU CAN AVOID IT!
Thanks to Conversations Squared for the tickets in exchange for this review.